Front Page Titles (by Subject) ADDITIONAL PAPERS. - The Correspondence and Public Papers of John Jay, vol. 4 (1794-1826)
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ADDITIONAL PAPERS. - John Jay, The Correspondence and Public Papers of John Jay, vol. 4 (1794-1826) 
The Correspondence and Public Papers of John Jay, ed. Henry P. Johnston, A.M. (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890-93). Vol. 4 (1794-1826).
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ADDRESSES TO THE AMERICAN BIBLE SOCIETY, BY JOHN JAY.
At the Annual Meeting, May 9, 1822.
Our late worthy and munificent president having, since the last anniversary of the society, been removed to a better state, the board of managers were pleased to elect me to succeed him: and that the state of my health might cease to be an objection, they have also dispensed with my personal attendance. For the honour they have done me by both these marks of attention, it gives me pleasure to express my sincere and grateful acknowledgments. With equal sincerity I assure the society that, although restrained from active services by long-continued maladies and the increasing infirmities of age, my attachment to this institution, and my desire to promote the attainment of its great and important objects, remain undiminished.
Those great and important objects have, on former anniversaries of this and similar societies, been so comprehensively and eloquently elucidated by gentlemen of signal worth and talents, as that it would neither be a necessary nor an easy task to give them additional illustration. So interesting, however, are the various topics which bear a relation to the purposes for which we have associated, that it cannot be useless, nor, on these occasions, unseasonable, to reiterate our attention to some of them.
There is reason to believe that the original, and the subsequent fallen, state of man, his promised redemption from the latter, and the institution of sacrifices having reference to it, were well known to many of every antediluvian generation. That these great truths were known to Noah, appears from the Divine favour he experienced; from his being a preacher of righteousness; and from the time and the description of the sacrifices which he offered. That he carefully and correctly communicated this knowledge to his children, is to be presumed from his character and longevity.
After the astonishing catastrophe at Babel, men naturally divided into different associations, according to their languages; and migrating into various regions, multiplied into distinct nations. Tradition, doubtless, still continued to transmit these great truths from generation to generation; but the diminution of longevity, together with the defects and casualties incident to tradition, gradually rendered it less and less accurate. These important truths thus became, in process of time, disfigured, obscure, and disregarded. Custom and usage continued the practice of sacrifices, but the design of their institution ceased to be remembered. Men “sought out many inventions,” and true religion was supplanted by fables and idolatrous rites. Their mythology manifests the inability of mere human reason, even when combined with the learning of Egypt, and the philosophy of Greece and Rome, to acquire the knowledge of our actual state and future destiny, and of the conduct proper to be observed in relation to both.
By the merciful interposition of Providence, early provision was made for preserving these great truths from universal oblivion; and for their being ultimately diffused throughout the world. They were communicated to Abraham. He was also favoured with additional information relative to the expected redemption, and with a promise that the Redeemer should be of his family. That family was thenceforth separated and distinguished from others, and on becoming a nation, was placed under theocratic government. To that family and nation, the Divine oracles and revelations were committed; and such of them as Infinite Wisdom deemed proper for the future instruction of every nation, were recorded and carefully preserved. By those revelations, the promise and expectation of redemption were from time to time renewed, and sundry distinctive marks and characteristic circumstances of the Redeemer predicted. The same merciful Providence has also been pleased to cause every material event and occurrence respecting our Redeemer, together with the gospel he proclaimed, and the miracles and predictions to which it gave occasion, to be faithfully recorded and preserved for the information and benefit of all mankind.
All these records are set forth in the Bible which we are distributing; and from them it derives an incalculable degree of importance; for as every man must soon pass through his short term of existence here, into a state of life of endless duration, the knowledge necessary to enable him to prepare for such a change cannot be too highly estimated.
The Gospel was no sooner published than it proceeded to triumph over obstacles which its enemies thought insurmountable, and numerous heathen nations rendered joyful “obedience to the faith.” Well-known events afterward occurred, which impeded its progress, and even contracted the limits of its sway. Why those events were permitted, and why the conversion of the great residue of the Gentiles was postponed, has not been revealed to us. The Scriptures inform us, that the coming in of the fulness of the Gentiles will not be accomplished while Jerusalem shall continue to be trodden down by them. As a distant future period appears to have been allotted for its accomplishment, so a distant future season was doubtless assigned for its effectual commencement. Although the time appointed for the arrival of that season cannot be foreseen, yet we have reason to presume that its approach, like the approach of most other seasons, will be preceded and denoted by appropriate and significant indications. As the conversion of the Gentiles is doubtless to be effected by the instrumentality of Christian nations, so these will doubtless be previously prepared and qualified for that great work; and their labour in it be facilitated by the removal or mitigation of obstructions and difficulties. The tendency, which certain recent events have to promote both these purposes, gives them the aspect of such indications.
Great and multifarious were the calamities inflicted on the nations of Europe by their late extensive war; a war of longer duration, and in the course of which more blood and tears were shed, more rapacity and desolation committed, more cruelty and perfidy exercised, and more national and individual distress experienced, than in any of those which are recorded in modern history. During the continuance, and on the conclusion of such a war, it was natural to expect, that the pressure of public and personal dangers and necessities would have directed and limited the thoughts, cares, and efforts of rulers and people to their existing exigences; and to the means necessary to acquire security, to repair waste, and terminate privations.
Yet, strange as it may appear, desires, designs, and exertions of a very different kind, mingled with these urgent temporal cares. The people of Great Britain formed, and have nobly supported their memorable Bible Society. Their example has been followed, not only by the people of this country, but also by nations who had not yet obliterated the vestiges of war and conflagration. At no former period have the people of Europe and America instituted so many associations for diffusing and impressing the knowledge and influence of the Gospel, and for various other charitable and generous purposes, as since the beginning of the present century. These associations comprehend persons of every class; and their exemplary zeal and philanthropy continue to incite feelings and meditations well calculated to prepare us all for the great work before mentioned. We have also lived to see some of the obstructions to it removed, and some of its difficulties mitigated.
Throughout many generations there have been professing Christians, who, under the countenance and authority of their respective governments, treated the heathen inhabitants of certain countries in Africa as articles of commerce; taking and transporting multitudes of them, like beasts of burden, to distant regions; to be sold, and to toil and die in slavery. During the continuance of such a traffic, with what consistence, grace, or prospect of success, could such Christians send missionaries to present the Bible, or preach the Christian doctrines of brotherly kindness and charity to the people of those countries?
So far as respects Great Britain and the United States, that obstacle has been removed; and other Christian nations have partially followed their example. Although similar circumstances expose some of them to an opposition like that which Great Britain experienced, it is to be hoped that an overruling Providence will render it equally unsuccessful. I allude to the territorial and personal concerns which prompted the opposition with which the advocates for the act of abolition had to contend. It will be recollected that many influential individuals deeply interested in the slave-trade, together with others who believed its continuance to be indispensable to the prosperity of the British West India Islands, made strenuous opposition to its abolition, even in the British parliament. Delays were caused by it, but considerations of a higher class than those which excited the opposition finally prevailed, and the parliament abolished that detestable trade. Well-merited honour was thereby reflected on the Legislature; and particularly on that excellent and celebrated member of it, whose pious zeal and unwearied perseverance were greatly and conspicuously instrumental to the removal of that obstacle. Their example, doubtless, has weight with those other nations who are in a similar predicament, and must tend to encourage them to proceed and act in like manner.
Although an immense heathen population in India was under the dominion, controul, and influence of a Christian nation, yet it was deemed better policy to leave them in blindness than to risk incurring the inconveniences which might result from authorizing or encouraging attempts to relieve them from it. This policy has at length met with the neglect it deserved. The Gospel has been introduced into India, under the auspices of the British government; and various means are co-operating to advance its progress, and hasten the time when the King of saints will emancipate that people from the domination of the prince of darkness.
The languages of the heathen nations in general being different from those of Christian nations, neither their Bibles could be read, nor their missionaries be understood by the former. To obviate and lessen these difficulties, numerous individuals have been induced to learn those languages; and the Bible has already been translated into many of them. Provision has been made for educating heathen youth, and qualifying them for becoming missionaries. Schools have also been established in heathen countries, and are preparing the rising generation to receive and to diffuse the light of the Gospel.
The mere tendency of these events to promote the coming in of the Gentiles, affords presumptive evidence of their being genuine indications of the approach of the season assigned for it—or, in other words, that they are providential. This evidence becomes more than presumptive, when combined with that which the few following inquiries and remarks bring into view.
Whence has it come to pass that Christian nations, who for ages had regarded the welfare of heathens with indifference, and whose intercourse with them had uniformly been regulated by the results of political, military, and commercial calculations, have recently felt such new and unprecedented concern for the salvation of their souls, and have simultaneously concurred in means and measures for that purpose? Whence has it come to pass that so many individuals, of every profession and occupation, who in the ordinary course of human affairs confine their speculations, resources, and energies to the acquisition of temporal prosperity for themselves and families, have become so ready and solicitous to supply idolatrous strangers in remote regions with the means of obtaining eternal felicity? Who has “opened their hearts to attend” to such things?
It will be acknowledged that worldly wisdom is little conversant with the transcendent affairs of that kingdom which is not of this world; and has neither ability to comprehend, nor inclination to further them. To what adequate cause, therefore, can these extraordinary events be attributed, but to the wisdom that cometh from above? If so, these events authorize us to conclude, that the Redeemer is preparing to take possession of the great remainder of his heritage, and is inciting and instructing his servants to act accordingly. The duties which this conclusion proclaims and inculcates, are too evident and well known to require particular enumeration.
Not only Bible societies, but also the various other societies who in different ways are forwarding the great work in question, have abundant reason to rejoice and be thankful for the blessings which have prospered their endeavours. We of this society in particular cannot fail to participate largely in this gratitude and joy; especially when we reflect on the beneficent and successful exertions of our late meritorious president to establish and support it, on the number of our auxiliaries and members, on the continuance and amount of their contributions, and on the fidelity and prudence with which our affairs have been managed.
Let us therefore persevere steadfastly in distributing the Scriptures far and near, and without note or comment. We are assured that they “are profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” They comprise the inestimable writings by which the inspired apostles, who were commanded to preach the Gospel to all people, have transmitted it, through many ages, down to our days. The apostles were opposed in preaching the Gospel, but they nevertheless persisted. We are opposed in dispensing the Scriptures which convey the knowledge of it; and let us follow their example. An eminent ancient counsellor gave excellent advice to their adversaries; and his reasoning affords salutary admonition to our opponents. That advice merits attention, and was concluded in the following memorable words:
“Refrain from these men, and let them alone; for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to naught; but if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.”
At the Annual Meeting, May 8, 1823.
It gives me pleasure to observe that this anniversary, like the preceding, brings with it tidings which give us occasion for mutual gratulations, and for united thanksgivings to Him whose blessings continue to prosper our proceedings.
These annual meetings naturally remind us of the purposes for which we have associated; and lead us to reflections highly interesting to those who consider what and where we are, and what and where we are to be.
That all men, throughout all ages, have violated their allegiance to their great Sovereign, is a fact to which experience and revelation bear ample and concurrent testimony. The Divine attributes forbid us to suppose that the Almighty Sovereign of the universe will permit any province of His empire to remain forever in a state of revolt. On the contrary, the sacred Scriptures assure us, that it shall not only be reduced to obedience, but also be so purified and improved as that righteousness and felicity shall dwell and abide in it.
Had it not been the purpose of God, that His will should be done on earth as it is done in Heaven, He would not have commanded us to pray for it. That command implies a prediction and a promise that in due season it shall be accomplished. If therefore the will of God is to be done on earth as it is done in Heaven, it must undoubtedly be known throughout the earth, before it can be done throughout the earth; and, consequently, He who has decreed that it shall be so done, will provide that it shall be so known.
Our Redeemer having directed that the Gospel should be preached throughout the world, it was preached accordingly; and being witnessed from on high, “with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles and gifts of the Holy Ghost,” it became preponderant, and triumphant, and effulgent. But this state of exaltation, for reasons unknown to us, was suffered to undergo a temporary depression. A subsequent period arrived, when the pure doctrines of the Gospel were so alloyed by admixtures, and obscured by appendages, that its lustre gradually diminished, and like the fine gold mentioned by the prophet, it became dim.
Since the Reformation, artifice and error have been losing their influence on ignorance and credulity, and the Gospel has been resuming its purity. We now see Christians, in different countries, and of different denominations, spontaneously and cordially engaged in conveying the Scriptures, and the knowledge of salvation, to the heathen inhabitants of distant regions. So singular, impressive, and efficient is the impulse which actuates them, that without the least prospect of earthly retribution, they cheerfully submit to such pecuniary contributions, such appropriations of time and industry, and, in many instances, to such hazards and privations, and such derelictions of personal comfort and convenience, as are in direct opposition to the propensities of human nature.
Can such extraordinary and unexampled undertakings possibly belong to that class of enterprises, which we are at liberty to adopt or decline as we please; enterprises which no duty either commands or forbids? This is more than a mere speculative question; and therefore the evidence respecting the character and origin of these undertakings cannot be too carefully examined, and maturely weighed; especially as this evidence is accumulating, and thereby acquiring additional claims to serious attention.
We observe a strange and general alteration in the feelings of Christians towards the heathen; and one still more strange and unprecedented has taken place in their feelings towards the Jews; feelings very different from those which so many centuries have universally prevailed. Although, as it were, sifted over all nations, yet, unlike the drops of rain which blend with the waters on which they fall, these scattered exiles have constantly remained in a state of separation from the people among whom they were dispersed; obstinately adhering to their peculiarities, and refusing to coalesce with them. By thus fulfilling the prophecies, every Jew is a living witness to their truth.
The same prophecies declare, that a time will come when all the twelve tribes shall be restored to their country, and be a praise in the earth: but the precise time is not specified. By declaring that “blindness in part hath happened unto Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in, and that Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled,” they lead us to conclude, that their blindness will not be sooner removed, and therefore that their conversion is not to be sooner expected. Individual Jews have, from time to time, been relieved from their blindness, and become Christians; and there are expressions in the Scriptures, which favour the prevailing opinion, that the conversion of a large portion, and perhaps of the whole tribe of Judah, may precede that of the other tribes. They are now experiencing less oppression, less contempt, and more compassion than formerly. Their obduracy is softening, and their prejudices abating. These changes have the appearance of incipient preparatives for their conversion.
Besides these recent changes in favour of the heathen and the Jews, another has taken place in the disposition and feelings of our people towards the many savage nations who still remain within our limits. The policy formerly observed towards them, together with our rapid population, increased their necessities, but not our endeavours to alleviate them. This indifference has latterly been yielding to a general sympathy for their wretchedness, and to a desire to ameliorate their condition. For this laudable purpose, our government has wisely and virtuously adopted measures for their welfare; and benevolent societies and pious individuals are using means to introduce among them the benefits of civilization and Christianity.
Nor are these the only events and changes which are facilitating the distribution, and extending the knowledge of the Scriptures. For a long course of years, many European nations were induced to regard toleration as pernicious, and to believe that the people had no right to think and judge for themselves respecting religious tenets and modes of worship. Hence it was deemed advisable to prohibit their reading the Bible, and to grant that privilege only to persons of a certain description. Intolerance is passing away, and in France, where it formerly prevailed, Bible Societies have been established by permission of the government, and are proceeding prosperously, under the auspices of men high in rank, in character, and in station.
From the nature, the tendency, and the results of these recent and singular changes, events, and institutions; from their coincidence, and admirable adjustment, as means for making known the Holy Scriptures, and inculcating the will of their Divine and merciful Author, throughout the world; and from the devotedness with which they are carrying into operation, there is reason to conclude that they have been produced by Him in whose hands are the hearts of all men.
If so, we are engaged in His service; and that consideration forbids us to permit our ardour or exertions to be relaxed or discouraged by attempts to depreciate our motives, to impede or discredit our proceedings, or to diminish our temporal resources. The Scriptures represent Christians as being engaged in a spiritual warfare, and, therefore, both in their associated and individual capacities, they are to expect and prepare for opposition. On the various inducements which prompt this opposition, much might be said; though very little, if any thing, that would be new. The present occasion admits only of general and brief remarks, and not of particular and protracted disquisitions.
Whatever may be the characters, the prejudices, the views, or the arts of our opponents, we have only to be faithful to our Great Leader. They who march under the banners of Emmanuel have God with them; and consequently have nothing to fear.
At the Annual Meeting, May 13, 1824.
We have the satisfaction of again observing, that by the blessing of Providence on the zeal of our fellow-citizens, and on the fidelity, diligence, and prudence with which our affairs are conducted, they continue in a state of progressive improvement. The pleasure we derive from it is not a little increased by the consideration that we are transmitting essential benefits to multitudes in various regions, and that the value and important consequences of these benefits extend and will endure beyond the limits of time. By so doing, we render obedience to the commandment by which He who “made of one blood all nations of men,” and established a fraternal relation between the individuals of the human race, hath made it their duty to love and be kind to one another.
We know that a great proportion of mankind are ignorant of the revealed will of God, and that they have strong claims to the sympathy and compassion which we, who are favoured with it, feel and are manifesting for them. To the most sagacious among the heathen it must appear wonderful and inexplicable that such a vicious, suffering being as man should have proceeded in such a condition from the hands of his Creator. Having obscure and confused ideas of a future state, and unable to ascertain how far justice may yield to mercy or mercy to justice, they live and die (as our heathen ancestors did) involved in darkness and perplexities.
By conveying the Bible to people thus circumstanced we certainly do them a most interesting act of kindness. We thereby enable them to learn, that man was originally created and placed in a state of happiness, but, becoming disobedient, was subjected to the degradation and evils which he and his posterity have since experienced. The Bible will also inform them, that our gracious Creator has provided for us a Redeemer, in whom all the nations of the earth should be blessed—that this Redeemer has made atonement “for the sins of the whole world,” and thereby reconciling the Divine justice with the Divine mercy, has opened a way for our redemption and salvation; and that these inestimable benefits are of the free gift and grace of God, not of our deserving, nor in our power to deserve. The Bible will also animate them with many explicit and consoling assurances of the Divine mercy to our fallen race, and with repeated invitations to accept the offers of pardon and reconciliation. The truth of these facts and the sincerity of these assurances being unquestionable, they cannot fail to promote the happiness of those by whom they are gratefully received, and of those by whom they are benevolently communicated.
We have also the satisfaction of observing that the condition of the Church continues to improve. When at certain periods subsequent to the Reformation, discordant opinions on ecclesiastical subjects began to prevail, they produced disputes and asperities which prompted those who embraced the same peculiar opinions to form themselves into distinct associations or sects. Those sects not only permitted Christian fraternity with each other to be impaired by coldness, reserve, and distrust, but also, on the occurrence of certain occasions, proceeded to alternate and culpable acts of oppression. Even their endeavours to increase the number of Christians were often too intimately connected with a desire to increase the number of their adherents; and hence they became more solicitous to repress competition than to encourage reciprocal respect and good-will.
These prejudices, however, have gradually been giving way to more laudable feelings. By the progress of civilization and useful knowledge many individuals became better qualified to distinguish truth from error, and the diffusion of their reasonings among the people enabled them to judge and to act with less risk of committing mistakes. Since the rights of man and the just limits of authority in Church and State have been more generally and clearly understood, the Church has been less disturbed by that zeal which “is not according to knowledge”; and liberal sentiments and tolerant principles are constantly enlarging the sphere of their influence.
To the advantages which the Church has derived from the improved state of society, may be added those which are resulting from the institution of Bible societies. With whatever degree of tenacity any of the sects may adhere to their respective peculiarities, they all concur in opinion respecting the Bible, and the propriety of extensively distributing it without note or comment. They therefore readily become members of Bible societies, and in that capacity freely co-operate. Their frequent meetings and consultations produce an intercourse which affords them numerous opportunities of forming just estimates of one another, and of perceiving that prepossessions are not always well founded. This intercourse is rendered the more efficient by the great and increasing number of clerical members from dissimilar denominations. Convinced by observation and experience that persons of great worth and piety are attached to sects different from their own, the duties of their vocation, and their respectable characters, naturally incline them to recommend and encourage Christian friendliness.
It is well known, that both cathedrals and meeting-houses have heretofore exhibited individuals who have been universally and justly celebrated as real and useful Christians; and it is also well known, that at present not a few, under similar circumstances and of similar characters, deserve the like esteem and commendation. As real Christians are made so by Him without whom we “can do nothing,” it is equally certain that He receives them into His family, and that in His family mutual love and uninterrupted concord never cease to prevail. There is no reason to believe or suppose that this family will be divided into separate classes, and that separate apartments in the mansions of bliss will be allotted to them according to the different sects from which they had proceeded.
These truths and considerations direct our attention to the new commandment of our Saviour, that his disciples “do love one another”: although an anterior commandment required, that, “as we had opportunity” we should “do good unto all men”; yet this new one makes it our duty to do so “especially to the household of faith.” In the early ages of the Church, Christians were highly distinguished by their obedience to it; and it is to be regretted that the conduct of too many of their successors has in this respect been less worthy of imitation.
Our days are becoming more and more favoured and distinguished by new and unexpected accessions of strength to the cause of Christianity. A zeal unknown to many preceding ages has recently pervaded almost every Christian country, and occasioned the establishment of institutions well calculated to diffuse the knowledge and impress the precepts of the Gospel both at home and abroad. The number and diversity of these institutions, their concurrent tendency to promote these purposes, and the multitudes who are cordially giving them aid and support, are so extraordinary, and so little analogous to the dictates of human propensities and passions, that no adequate cause can be assigned for them but the goodness, wisdom, and will of Him who made and governs the world.
We have reason to rejoice that such institutions have been so greatly multiplied and cherished in the United States; especially as a kind Providence has blessed us, not only with peace and plenty, but also with the full and secure enjoyment of our civil and religious rights and privileges. Let us, therefore, persevere in our endeavours to promote the operation of these institutions, and to accelerate the attainment of their objects. Their unexampled rise, progress, and success in giving light to the heathen, and in rendering Christians more and more “obedient to the faith,” apprise us that the great Captain of our salvation is going forth, “conquering and to conquer,” and is directing and employing these means and measures for that important purpose. They, therefore, who enlist in His service, have the highest encouragement to fulfil the duties assigned to their respective stations; for most certain it is, that those of His followers who steadfastly and vigorously contribute to the furtherance and completion of His conquests, will also participate in the transcendent glories and blessings of His triumph.
At the Annual Meeting, May 12, 1825.
You have the satisfaction of perceiving, from the report of the board of managers, that the prosperous and promising state of our affairs continues to evince the laudable and beneficial manner in which they have been constantly conducted.
We have to regret that the pleasing reflections and anticipations suggested by these auspicious circumstances are mingled with the sorrow which the recent death of our late worthy and beloved Vice-president has caused, and widely diffused. Our feelings are the more affected by it, as the benefits we have derived from his meritorious and incessant attention to all our concerns have constantly excited both our admiration and our gratitude.
As the course of his life was uniformly under the direction of true religion and genuine philanthropy, it forbids us to doubt of his being in a state of bliss, and associated with “the spirits of just men made perfect.” Notwithstanding this consoling consideration, his departure will not cease to be lamented by this society, nor by those of his other fellow-citizens on whom his patriotic services, his exemplary conduct, and his disinterested benevolence have made correspondent impressions.
But the loss we have sustained by this afflicting event should not divert our thoughts from subjects which bear a relation to the design of our institution, and consequently to the purpose for which we annually assemble.
It may not therefore be unseasonable to remark, that the great objects of the Bible, and the distribution of it, without note or comment, suggest sundry considerations which have claims to attention.
Christians know that man was destined for two worlds—the one of transient, and the other of perpetual duration; and that his welfare in both depends on his acceptance and use of the means for obtaining it, which his merciful Creator has for that purpose appointed and ordained. Of these inestimable and unmerited blessings the greater proportion of the human race are yet to be informed; and, to that end, we are communicating the same to them exactly in that state in which, by the direction and inspiration of their Divine Author, they were specified and recorded in the Bible, which we are distributing without note or comment.
As these gracious dispensations provide for our consolation under the troubles incident to a state of probation in this life, and for our perfect and endless felicity in the next, no communications can be of higher or more general interest. Wherever these dispensations become known and observed, they not only prepare men for a better world, but also diminish the number and pressure of those sufferings which the corrupt propensities and vicious passions of men prompt them to inflict on each other; and which sufferings are of greater frequency and amount than those which result from other causes.
Time and experience will decide whether the distribution of the Bible, without note or comment, will have any, and what effect, on the progress of the Gospel. Hitherto nothing unfavourable to this course of proceeding has occurred; and the expedience of it continues to derive a strong argument from its tendency to decrease the inconveniences which usually attend the circulation of discordant comments. Whenever any questionable opinions relative to any Scripture doctrine meet with zealous advocates, and with zealous opponents, they seldom fail to excite the passions as well as the mental exertions of the disputants. Controversies like these are not always conducted with moderation and delicacy, nor have they been uniformly consistent with candour and charity. On the contrary, the ardour with which the parties contend for victory frequently generates prejudices; and insensibly renders them more anxious to reconcile the Scriptures to their reasonings, than their reasonings to the Scriptures. The doubts and perplexities thereby disseminated are not favourable to those whose faith is not yet steadfast, nor to those who from temperament or imbecility are liable to such impressions.
These remarks, however, are far from being applicable to those excellent and instructive comments which have been written by authors of eminent talent, piety, and prudence; and which have been received with general and well-merited approbation.
It is to be regretted that comments of a very different character and description have caused errors to germinate and take root in Christian countries. Some of these were fabricated by individuals, who, finding that they could not carry their favourite propensities and habits with them through the “narrow way” prescribed by the Gospel, endeavoured to discredit Christianity by objections which exhibit stronger marks of disingenuous, than of correct and candid reasoning. By artfully and diligently encouraging defection from Scripture, and from Scripture doctrines, they gradually introduced and spread that contempt for both, which in the last century was publicly displayed in impious acts of profaneness, and in dreadful deeds of ferocity. These atrocities repressed the career of infidelity, and infidels thereupon became less assuming, but not less adverse.
Even among professing Christians, and of distinct denominations, there are not a few of distinguished attainments and stations who have sedulously endeavoured so to interpret and paraphrase certain passages in the Bible, as to render them congruous with peculiar opinions, and auxiliary to particular purposes.
Certain other commentators, doubtless from a sincere desire to increase Christian knowledge by luminous expositions of abstruse subjects, have attempted to penetrate into the recesses of profound mysteries, and to dispel their obscurity by the light of reason. It seems they did not recollect that no man can explain what no man can understand. Those mysteries were revealed to our faith, to be believed on the credit of Divine testimony; and were not addressed to our mental abilities for explication. Numerous objects which include mysteries daily occur to our senses. We are convinced of their existence and reality, but of the means and processes by which they become what they are, and operate as they do, we all continue ignorant. Hence it may rationally be concluded, that the mysteries of the spiritual world are still farther remote from the limited sphere of human perspicacity.
Among the biblical critics, there are some who have incautiously intermingled their learned and judicious investigations with enigmatical subtleties and hypothetical speculations, which tend more to engender doubts and disputes than to produce real edification.
Additional animadversions on this subject would be superfluous; nor can it be necessary to examine, whether an indiscriminate circulation of comments would merit or meet with general approbation. They who think it advisible that comments should accompany the Bible, doubtless prefer and intend what in their opinion would be a judicious, limited, and exclusive selection of them. It is well known that, composed as this and other Bible societies are, such a selection could not be formed by them with requisite unanimity. They therefore wisely declined disturbing their union by attempting it, and very prudently concluded to distribute the Bible without any other comments than those which result from the illustrations which different parts of it afford to each other. Of this no individuals have reason to complain, especially as they are perfectly at liberty to circulate their favourite authors as copiously and extensively as they desire or think proper.
Our Redeemer commanded his apostles to preach the Gospel to every creature: to that end it was necessary that they should be enabled to understand and to preach it correctly, and to demonstrate its Divine origin and institution by incontestible proofs. The Old Testament, which contained the promises and prophecies respecting the Messiah, was finished at a period antecedent to the coming of our Saviour, and therefore afforded no information nor proof of his advent and subsequent proceedings. To qualify the apostles for their important task, they were blessed with the direction and guidance of the Holy Spirit, and by him were enabled to preach the Gospel with concordant accuracy, and in divers languages: they were also endued with power to prove the truth of their doctrine, and of their authority to preach it, by wonderful and supernatural signs and miracles.
A merciful Providence also provided that some of these inspired men should commit to writing such accounts of the Gospel, and of their acts and proceedings in preaching it, as would constitute and establish a standard whereby future preachers and generations might ascertain what they ought to believe and to do; and be thereby secured against the danger of being misled by the mistakes and corruptions incident to tradition. The Bible contains these writings, and exhibits such a connected series of the Divine revelations and dispensations respecting the present and future state of mankind, and so amply attested by internal and external evidence, that we have no reason to desire or expect that further miracles will be wrought to confirm the belief and confidence which they invite and require.
On viewing the Bible in this light, it appears that an extensive and increasing distribution of it has a direct tendency to facilitate the progress of the Gospel throughout the world. That it will proceed, and in due time be accomplished, there can be no doubt; let us therefore continue to promote it with unabated zeal, and in full assurance that the omnipotent Author and Protector of the Gospel will not suffer his gracious purposes to be frustrated by the arts and devices, either of malignant “principalities and powers,” or of “spiritual wickedness in high places.”
JAY TO THE CORPORATION OF TRINITY CHURCH.1
. . . . . . .
Permit us now to request your attention to a subject of more importance: it affects us all. You will recollect that Mr. Streebeck, in his letter respecting our call, mentioned his expectation of being inducted, according to the forms of what is called “the office of Induction.”
At that time we knew so little of that paper as to be unable to say anything decided to him about it; we afterward procured and considered it. To us it appeared to be liable to objections so manifest and so insuperable, as that we never could consent to have a minister inducted into our Church in that way.
That office of induction ought not, in our opinion, to be permitted to glide silently into operation, and acquire claims to obedience from successive instances of unguarded acquiescence. Whether that instrument is with or without precedent in the Christian Church, or by whom or for what purposes it was devised, are questions on which we make no remarks. Amid the prayers and piety by which it is decorated, are to be found unconstitutional assumptions of power, accompanied with a degree of parade and pageantry which, however conducive to other objects, have no natural connection with the mere business of induction. We believe that episcopacy was of apostolic institution, but we do not believe in the various high-church doctrines and prerogatives which art and ambition, triumphing over credulity and weakness, have annexed to it.
By the office of induction, the bishop is to give a formal commission, under his episcopal seal and signature, to the minister whom the corporation had called and engaged to be their rector; giving and granting to him the bishop’s license and authority to perform the office of a priest of that parish.
We believe that every Episcopalian priest, ordained according to the rules of our Church, has, in virtue of that ordination, good right and authority to preach the Gospel and perform divine service in any parish; but we admit the propriety of being restrained by the bishop from calling and settling any other than an Episcopalian minister so ordained and of fair character. We therefore think it fit that the bishop’s approbation on these two points should precede a call. We believe that we have a right to contract with and employ any such minister to be our rector; and that such contract is the only valid and proper commission which he can have to be our particular minister or rector.
We believe that both we and such minister have good right to make such a contract; that when made it is a civil contract; and that the convention have no authority to divest either priest or laymen of their right to make it.
By the office of induction and the commission directed by it, the bishop does induct the minister into the parish, and does ordain that he shall claim and enjoy all the accustomed temporalities appertaining to his cure.
We believe that the induction of a priest into a parish is neither more nor less than giving him the key of the church, and putting him in possession of such houses, tenements, and lands as he is entitled, by his contract with the corporation, to occupy and enjoy. This is a business which can lawfully be done only by the proprietors, nor can we perceive the least shadow of right in the bishop or in any other person to meddle with it.
As the bishop has no title to, nor care of, nor any business with, the temporalities of any church, we reject with decision every order or ordinance of his respecting the property of our corporation; we think it highly improper that he should attempt to meddle with our estate, or presume to order any person whatever to claim and enjoy all or any part of it. As to the pretence that he does it because they who serve at the altar should live of the things of the altar; or in other words, that we ought to maintain our minister, it is too frivolous to be even plausible. As the Lord and Giver of all property had already made an ordinance on this subject, another ordinance of the like import by the bishop was, to say the least, unnecessary. In this case his admonitions would be more proper than his orders. Besides, the bishop must know, and does know, that whatever relates to the support of the minister is always settled and fixed by a contract between him and his congregation before his induction as their rector. And therefore it can neither be very necessary nor very decorous for the bishop to ordain that the minister shall claim and enjoy what the corporation had previously promised and engaged that he should have and enjoy.
By the same instrument the bishop further ordains that the said minister shall claim and enjoy the said temporalities, not for any prescribed or limited time, but until he shall be separated from the congregation by episcopal authority.
In cases where the contract with the minister is clearly expressed and well understood to be for a limited time, can the bishop, with any appearance of probity or propriety, ordain that the minister shall, after the expiration of that time, still continue to claim and enjoy the temporalities without a new contract? Or is it the object and design of this same office of induction, to divest us of the important right which we have by the laws of God and of our country, to make civil and lawful contracts of limited duration with any person for his services, whether priest or layman? We fear this design is in operation, for we understand that every priest who shall make such a contract is to be excluded from a seat in the Convention.
We for our parts are far from being prepared to admit the validity and power of any canon to divest us of this right, or to punish or disfranchise a priest for exercising it. We know of nothing in the Gospel which forbids such contracts. To insist that we shall take a priest for better or for worse, and to keep him and to pay him whether he proves worthy or unworthy, faithful or unfaithful, whether we like him or whether we do not like him, is really demanding more than ought either to be demanded or to be complied with. It is said that the bishop may afford relief. It is true that he may; but it is also true that he may not.
As to the bishop’s being the arbiter and judge of disputes between a congregation and their rector, we observe, that all such of their disputes as turn on questions of a civil nature belong to the jurisdiction of the courts of law; and that no canon can either deprive those courts of that jurisdiction, nor divest any freeman of his right to have those disputes determined by the laws and by a jury of the country; and consequently, that no canon can or ought to constitute the bishop to be the arbiter or judge of them. But where the disputes turn on points of doctrine, we admit the fitness of their being decided by the bishop, so far as to settle the dispute; but not in all cases so far as to settle the doctrine; for there has been a time when, if the people had continued to believe and adhere to all the decisions and doctrines of their bishops, we should not have heard of, nor have been blessed with the reformed Protestant religion.
We cannot consider it as being altogether consistent with decorum, that the office of induction should order the senior warden, who is the first officer of the corporation, to stand at an appointed place, on the day of induction, during Divine service, holding the keys of the church in his hand in open view, as a mere pageant. We cannot approve of his being directed then to deliver the keys to the new incumbent, as a token that the parish did acknowledge him to be, what they had already made him to be, their rector. We can as little approve of what the new incumbent is thereupon to say to the senior warden, viz., “I receive these keys as pledges of the bishop’s episcopal induction, and of your recognition.”
Recognition of what? That they, the church-wardens, vestry, and congregation, are all ciphers in the business. It is not easy to observe and examine these things without feeling some degree of indignation. We cannot dismiss the office of induction without expressing our disapprobation of introducing an opinion on a disputed point into one of the prayers directed to be used on the day of induction; it is this:
“O holy Jesus, who has purchased to thyself an universal church, and has promised to be with the ministers of apostolic succession to the end of the world.”
This is not the promise literally, but the promise paraphrased and expounded. The promise of our Saviour is, “And lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.”
As the apostles were all to die in a few years, this promise could not be understood as limited to them personally, but as extending to a certain description of persons throughout all ages of the world. To what description of persons does the promise extend? is the question. To this question, they who made the above paraphrase answer, that it intends and extends to “the ministers of apostolic succession.” If it be asked, whether the ministers of the Calvinistic and of certain other churches are of apostolic succession, it is answered by all our bishops and clergy that they are not. It follows, therefore, of necessary consequence, that our bishops and clergy, and their congregation, when they offer up their prayer to Almighty God, must offer it with the meaning and understanding that the gracious promise mentioned in it is confined to Episcopalian ministers, and therefore excludes the ministers of all other denominations of Christians.
Who is there among us that can be prepared to declare, in solemn prayer, and in such positive and unqualified terms, that none but Episcopalian ministers have any part or lot in this important promise? Who is there that can be certain that the apostles, as to that promise, were not considered as the representatives of all who should become sincere and pious converts to, and believers in, the doctrines which they were sent to publish and to teach? What good reason can be assigned for our being called upon by the office of induction to adopt thus solemnly in prayer a doubtful exposition and construction of the promise; for doubtful it most certainly is, having from the reformation to this day been a subject of controversy and dispute between the ablest and best Christian divines. Great, indeed, must be the confidence and hardihood of those advocates for this construction of the promise who can, without hesitation, deny that our blessed Redeemer was with those non-episcopalian ministers and congregations amounting to several hundred thousands, who for his sake endured all the varieties and rigours of persecution. If the great Captain of our Salvation was not with them, how and by whom were they enabled to meet and sustain such trials so firmly, to resist the adversary so resolutely, and to fight the good fight of faith so triumphantly?
It may not be unworthy of remark, that as a prophecy is best understood from its completion, so the manner in which a Divine promise is performed, affords the best exposition of its true and original meaning.
Lastly. Let it be remembered, and corporations should recollect their charters, that in the year 1795 the Protestant-Episcopal church in this State did apply for and did obtain an act of the Legislature in this State, passed the seventeenth day of March in that year, which contains the following clause:
“And be it further enacted, that the churchwardens and vestry for the time being, shall be, and hereby are vested with full power to call and induct a rector to the church, when and so often as there shall be a vacancy therein.”
We submit to your consideration whether measures should not be taken to do away the office of induction; and if there must be such a thing introduced into the church, that it may be such a one as will leave both clergy and laity in quiet possession of their respective rights.
It is with sincere regret and reluctance that we find ourselves urged, by obvious considerations, to proceed to remarks on another interesting topic, which cannot be agreeable to many whose affections and good-will we are solicitous to cultivate by every becoming mark of respect. We know how much the welfare of our infant church depends on their friendly disposition towards us, and it certainly is as little our inclination as it is our interest to incur their displeasure. But painful as it may be, we must maintain our right, even at the risk of losing their good-will.
For a considerable time past, we have observed a variety of circumstances connected with church affairs which, on being combined and compared one with the other, justify inferences which, in our opinion, are exceedingly interesting, not only to the rights of the laity, but also to our churches in general, and to yours in particular. We allude to the gradual introduction and industrious propagation of high church doctrines. Of late years, they have frequently been seen lifting up their heads and appearing in places where their presence was neither necessary nor expected. There never was a time when those doctrines promoted peace on earth or good-will among men. Originating under the auspices and in the days of darkness and despotism, they patronized darkness and despotism down to the Reformation. Ever encroaching on the rights of governments and people, they have constantly found it convenient to incorporate, as far as possible, the claims of the clergy with the principles and practice of religion; and their advocates have not ceased to preach for Christian doctrines the commandments and devices of men.
To you it cannot be necessary to observe, that high church doctrines are not accommodated to the state of society, nor to the tolerant principles, nor to the ardent love of liberty which prevail in our country. It is well known that our church was formed after the Revolution with an eye to what was then believed to be the truth and simplicity of the Gospel; and there appears to be some reason to regret that the motives which then governed have since been less operative.
We know that our obscure and unimportant corporation can do but little. Providence has placed you under different circumstances. You have stronger inducements to watchfulness, more means to do good, and more power to avert evil.
Permit us to hope that the subjects of this letter will engage your serious consideration. Whatever may be the result, we shall have the satisfaction of reflecting that we have done our duty, in thus explicitly protesting against measures and proceedings which, if persevered in, must and will, sooner or later, materially affect the tranquillity and welfare of the Church.
EXTRACTS FROM THE WILL OF JOHN JAY.
I, John Jay, of Bedford, in the county of Westchester, and State of New York, being sensible of the importance and duty of so ordering my affairs as to be prepared for death, do make and declare my last will and testament in manner and form following, viz.:—Unto Him who is the author and giver of all good, I render sincere and humble thanks for his manifold and unmerited blessings, and especially for our redemption and salvation by his beloved Son. He has been pleased to bless me with excellent parents, with a virtuous wife, and with worthy children. His protection has accompanied me through many eventful years, faithfully employed in the service of my country; and his providence has not only conducted me to this tranquil situation, but also given me abundant reason to be contented and thankful. Blessed be his holy name. While my children lament my departure, let them recollect that in doing them good, I was only the agent of their Heavenly Father, and that he never withdraws his care and consolations from those who diligently seek him.
I would have my funeral decent, but not ostentatious. No scarfs—no rings. Instead thereof, I give two hundred dollars to any one poor deserving widow or orphan of this town, whom my children shall select.
. . . . . . .
I appoint all my children, and the survivors or survivor of them, executors of this my last will and testament. I wish that the disposition which I have therein made of my property, may meet with their approbation, and the more so, as their conduct relative to it has always been perfectly proper, reserved, and delicate. I cannot conclude this interesting act, without expressing the satisfaction I have constantly derived from their virtuous and amiable behavior. I thank them for having largely contributed to my happiness by their affectionate attachment and attention to me, and to each other. To the Almighty and Beneficent Father of us all, to his kind providence, guidance, and blessing, I leave and commend them.1
ACTION OF THE NEW YORK BAR ON THE DEATH OF JOHN JAY.
City Hall, New York, Tuesday, May 19, 1829, Five O’clock, p. m.
The Bar of the State of New York, now attending the sitting of the Supreme Court, met pursuant to their adjournment, D. B. Ogden, Chairman; John Sudam, Secretary.
James Tallmadge, Esq., Chairman of the Committee appointed this morning, reported the following Preamble and Resolutions, which were unanimously adopted.
The Committee respectfully report:
That the recent decease of the late venerable JOHN JAY is the cause of deep grief, and the present engrossing subject of private and public feeling.
John Jay was a native of our State; and a member of this Bar. The events of the American Revolution called him early into public life. His inherent love of political and virtuous liberty made him an early and active agent in laying the foundations of this nation, of which he soon became one of the brightest, and continued one of its fairest pillars. In 1777 he was appointed the first Chief Justice of this State, under the Constitution which he had eminently contributed to frame, and most of which was drafted by his pen. He was a member of the first Congress of the United States, and bore a conspicuous part in all its important duties, and presided for some time over the deliberations of that body. The exigencies of this nation required and commanded his great talents, discretion, firmness and skill, in various interesting and important duties during the Revolutionary struggle. At times as Chairman of the Committee of Public Safety he secured the domestic tranquillity, and at other times he was employed in important foreign missions and diplomatic trusts. He bore a prominent part in the negotiations for our Independence as a nation, and the ultimate treaty of peace. He continued to represent his country at foreign Courts for a number of years. He was, shortly after his return, called to preside as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, which place he afterwards left to accept the Executive Chair of the State of New York. When he had performed that last and highest duty to his native State, he declined all further judicial or political employment, and retired to the calm shade of domestic retreat, where the evening of his days was spent in social and benevolent intercourse, and in the signal observance of that religion which had been the bright beam of the morning and the evening of his life, the rights and toleration of which he had secured to this people in one of the most important articles of our Constitution.
There is no place more fit, and no persons are more willing to express their sincere feelings on this occasion than this Bar, where the talents and acquirements of the deceased were so early and so often displayed.—Therefore,
Resolved, That the members of this Bar are impressed with deep grief upon the decease of their illustrious brother, John Jay. They find, however, a consolation in the reflection that his conduct through a long and useful life, has given a lustre to our profession and to this Bar, and that while his character for private virtues and public worth has justly endeared him to the nation, his patriotism, his great talents as a statesman, and his great acquirements as a jurist, his eminent piety as a Christian, and probity as a man, all unite to present him to the public as an example whose radiance points to the attainment of excellence.
Resolved, That in respect for the character of the deceased, the members of this Bar will wear crape during the period of thirty days.
Resolved, That the Chairman and Secretary are desired to transmit a copy of the proceedings of this meeting to the family of the deceased.
Resolved, That the proceedings be signed by the Chairman and Secretary, and published in the different newspapers of this city.
D. B. Ogden,Chairman.
[1 ]“Mr. Jay, finding on his removal to Bedford no Episcopal church in the vicinity, constantly attended the one belonging to the Presbyterians; nor did he scruple to unite with his fellow-Christians of that persuasion in commemorating the passion of their common Lord. His catholicism, however, did not diminish his attachment to his own denomination. He was instrumental in erecting an Episcopal church in Bedford, and was, during the rest of his life, a generous benefactor to it, and, by his will, left a liberal annuity to its pastor. His reluctance to hold any office led him to decline a seat in the vestry of this church, but his advice and aid were frequently asked and cheerfully given. Some matters of business requiring a communication to the vestry of Trinity church, in the city of New York, he was requested to prepare it; and he took the opportunity of addressing to that powerful and influential corporation some remarks on topics which he regarded as deeply interesting to the Church at large. The draught was cordially approved and adopted by the Bedford church.”—Jay’s “Life of Jay,” Vol. I., p. 434.
[1 ]Mr. Jay died at his residence at Bedford, Westchester County, New York, May 17, 1829, in the eighty-fourth year of his age.